Tag Archives: Pat Higgins

Horror husband and wife team celebrate ten years of filmic fear

werewolvescheerleaderschainsaws2[1]The tale of the husband and wife team of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock and how they brought the horrors of Psycho to the big screen is currently in cinema screens and hitting the awards circuit. Played by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, respectively, the pair have been nominated for numerous awards, including this weekend’s Academy Awards.

Mirren originally hails from Essex and a horror filmmaking husband and wife team from the county might not have a biopic being made about them but they’ve certainly carved, hacked and gouged out something of a niche for themselves.

Jinx Media, run by husband and wife team Pat (Writer and Director) and Pippa Higgins (Producer), is celebrating ten years of fear, or a decade of death if you will, with its high impact, low budget horror movies that have been unleashed across the international market.

They’ve talked cadavars at the Cannes Film Festival and Haunted Hollywood with their series of unique horror tales that have taken in murderous hellbrides, chainsaw wielding cheerleaders and good old zombie Nazi’s (well it would be rude not to).

Rather fittingly based in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, home of the Doom Pond where three witches were tried, Jinx Media has been anything but jinxed. Almost no shallow grave has been left undisturbed by the pair and along the way they’ve won plaudits and prizes aplenty.

Writer/Director Pat has been described as the ‘Essex Auteur’ by Empire magazine, ‘The Tarantino of budget gore flicks for both style and dialogue’ by SFX and one of ‘the most promising British horror directors’ by Fangoria.

He is the co-creator of the Death Tales series of films (the most recent of which, Nazi Zombie Death Tales, hit the UK in Autumn 2012), the original writer/creator of Strippers vs Werewolves and the writer/director of several features including the highly acclaimed The Devil’s Music (winner of Best Independent Feature at the Festival of Fantastic Films 2008)

Pat’s latest live show is called ‘Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws’ and is packed with advice and anecdotes from the front line of low-budget horror filmmaking. The live show (which  promises strong language, gore and nudity – Pat stays fully clothed throughout so I’m assured) was filmed at the recent Horror-on-Sea festival in Southend, and the filmed version is available free of charge via http://www.jinx.co.uk  or at the bottom of this post as a thank-you for ten years of support from the horror filmmaking community.

Horror supremo Pat Higgins, said: “I love doing the live shows and thought it’d be fun to share one on the Internet as a freebie, just to say thanks to the folks who’ve supported our stuff over the last decade. The next ten years will be even bloodier, funnier and more action-packed than the last ten; I can’t wait!”

 

Pat Higgins: There Will Be Blood

It’s a while since I last crossed paths with Essex’s most prolific horror film maker, Pat Higgins.  Since I last interviewed him he has become a first time dad and been back behind his word processor and the lens of a camera. Pat’s back and this time it’s personal. There will be terror, there will be death and you can be sure that…there will be blood!

It is the year 1981 and little Pat Higgins was getting his first taste of media exposure on local radio talking about horror. The film the six year old was talking about was David Cronenberg’s Scanners, the poster to be precise and the fact that it scared the bejesus out of him. It kind of reminded me of the phone in flashbacks to a young Norman Bates in Psycho IV: The Beginning, thus forever melding those words Higgins and horror as one.

Higgins has since made his peace with the head-exploding classic as that very same poster design now sits in his house, almost trophy like, although it’s more that it has captured him and his imagination than the other way round.

In some ways you could describe Pat as one part Wes Craven meets one part Quentin Tarantino. The 38 year old from Leigh, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream horrormeister Craven, is a college lecturer by day and , like Tarantino, used to work in a video shop, Blockbuster in Westcliff-on-Sea no less.

What screams may come then as rather than renting video nasties to the public, he is now making them and over his seven years helming and writing horror films he has built up quite the body of work (and number of bodies) that has seen him win numerous awards and also attend the Cannes Film Festival.

His latest feature, Nazi Zombie Death Tales, is a horror anthology, like Bordello Death Tales in features segments from the horror holy trinity of Higgins, Jim Eaves and Alan Ronald, and was released on DVD recently and is now available from the likes of Amazon, HMV and Asda.

For him this latest project, WW2 practically a horror sub-genre in itself these days, has been a fantastic experience for Pat. He said: “As both a horror fan and filmmaker, I’m massively proud of it and sees it as a really strong, commercial piece of work.”

Like most filmmakers he’s involved in several projects at various stages, both new and old, which also includes going back into the editing suite and delivering director cuts of two of his earlier efforts, Killer Killer, and The Devil’s Music.

Higgins first broke onto the horror scene with TrashHouse, which won him both rave reviews and the Best Screenplay Award at the Troma Fling in Edinburgh as well as Runner Up in Best UK Film, back in 2005, and with each passing film he has grown as a director, so what has he taken from each new project.

Pat said: “Really I’ve managed to pull one big lesson from each film I have written or directed. Hopefully this hones what I do better and to a degree it’s been me growing as a filmmaker in public and discovering what worked and didn’t work. TrashHouse is a movie with an awful lot of things that I would do differently today but I wouldn’t know how to do them differently if I hadn’t had made TrashHouse. You can’t look back with too much regret as long as you can take something away from it and learn from it.”

Higgins had TrashHouse bubbling in his head for a while before he decided to step behind the camera for the first time at the age of 29, sneaking it in before his 30th and ticking that item off his bucket list, which perhaps would be more appropriate if it were a bucket of blood list.

Keen to find out what influences we would find if we sliced open Pat’s brain open and it spilled out, his answers came thick and fast.

“Rubber monsters of a Gremlin’s ilk, huge giant squid knocking about in my brain from 20,000 leagues under the sea, always prominent and if they were cheaper to realise I would have probably made about four killer squid movie s by now.

The work of Fred Dekker, apart from Robocop 3. I just love Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad to pieces. Night of the Creeps is the closest blueprint to some of the stuff knocking around in my head at any one time. Also, Hitchcock from a narrative point of view and the suspense element is something always there in the mix.”

Asked whether he thought he has changed as a writer or director since becoming a dad, or see things from a different perspective, Higgins’ answer was clear.

“Absolutely, in terms of what you watch as well. You certainly react differently to different stimulus and the things that worried you when you were a teenager are probably very different things that worry you as an adult and then again as a parent. I’ve had conversations with much younger people who can’t understand why the Exorcist is a scary film.

I always say to them come back to me in 20 years time when you’ve got a child and then you’ll see why. The Exorcist doesn’t prey on the fears of teenagers it preys on the fears of parents, whereas something like Scream or Halloween I don’t put my self in the shoes of a baby sitter in peril. Screw and Die movies, for want of a better word, they don’t resonate with my own concerns as a parent. Those things do change and the horror movies you react to change.

Just because it is no longer the stuff that doesn’t keep me awake at the end of the night it doesn’t mean I still can’t tap into it. I can hopefully still empathise with that section of the audience still scared by the monster under the bed and the bogeyman and that kind of level of slasher horror. I might do slightly more when my daughter is a teenager.

Charlie Brooker recently said in an interview that becoming a parent is like being totally being reprogrammed in a second and I think that is true and if I were to pretend that it doesn’t impact the way you write something I’d be lyng.”

We already know what scared a five year Pat but what scares Pat Higgins on film and real life today? For Hitchcock it was famously the law and the police but according to IMDB for Higgins it is chainsaws, or is it?

Higgins puts the records straight, saying: “Weirdly enough that was written by an actor – I won’t name him – and he said I needed to have something interesting about me on IMDB and before I knew it that was there. Ten years later I nearly get asked it in every interview – its not true but I do get asked it an awful lot, even though I’m cheek to cheek with a chainsaw on my Twitter profile pic.

I think the sudden loss of the rules that you think are established for reality those crumbling are the things that bother me more than anything, that moment where the killer can walk through walls or is people around you conspiring against you. For me there is something in that reveal, something in the heart of that where the scare lies.”

For Higgins those scares begin at the writing stage, for him it is the most exciting stage of the journey. He concluded: “I love the writing and sadly I don’t get as much time to do it as I would like to. There should always be time for writing as it’s the seed from which all else springs.”

Somewhere, there is a five year old who has seen a Pat Higgins poster and is currently phoning up a radio station to complain about it…

Pat’s Entertainment! Those Pat Higgins films in full

TrashHouse (2005)

Simply put, five strangers take up a winner takes all challenge to test an experimental implant that grants their wildest wishes in a virtual world. One lives out his greatest sexual fantasies, another conjures a technological environment and sets about curing cancer, one can’t think of anything more interesting to do than sit in a chair and have money flutter about around him. Soon, dreams are shattered and the stuff of nightmares are unleashed in the form of monsters and zombies. Those who are dead are the lucky ones!

Hellbride (2007)

Everything is working out for Nicole Meadows. She has a great job. She has an adoring boyfriend who has just proposed. She has a doting father who is preparing the wedding. She also has a dark secret and a cursed engagement ring (as you do). Come the wedding day, there will be bloodshed, but at least there will be cake, too. Here comes the Hellbride…just don’t hold your breath for the honeymoon!

Killer Killer (2007)

In the middle of nowhere, sits a secure facility housing only serial killers. One morning the doors are open and the guards have vanished, but a strange freezing mist surrounds the building, preventing the inmates from leaving. Then, one by one, they are murdered. It’s time for the victims to take their vengeance…you’ll never look at a cheerleader in the same way again!

The Devil’s Music (2008)

The first film to document the strange story of notorious shock-rocker Erika Spawn. Spawn was briefly the most infamous woman in the world after her music had been linked to a series of real life murders.  It’s Spinal Tap meets Blair Witch as we see ever before seen footage showing us what became of Erika and how her final tour had a bloody end.

Bordello Death Tales (2009)

A unique, sexy and terrifying anthology movie in the tradition of Creepshow. This trilogy of terror delivers blood and boobs in buckets, welcome the macabre tales of The Ripper, Stitchgirl and Vice Day and discover, if you dare, how each tale is linked to the mysterious Madam Raven

Strippers Vs Werewolves (2012)

The title says it all really as werewolves have their eyes on the wrong bunch of women, these wolves have picked the wrong company. A screenplay credit here for Pat that sees his name on then credits but not necessarily his vision on screen. The cast does boast Robert Englund, Steven Berkoff, Lucy Pinder in her big screen debut and Martin Kemp.

Zombie Nazi Death Tales (2012)

War is truly hell with these three interlocking stories from the dark days of World War 2. A soldier on a suicide mission. A troubled family with a monster in their bomb shelter. A supernatural investigator on her most dangerous assignment yet. The war of horror has never been so real.

Phantoms of the Soap Operas

Silva bullet

The rather fantastically titled Strippers Vs Werewolves, from award-winning British Writer, Pat Higgins, begins filming today. Featuring a host of former soap talent, including Emmerdale’s Adele Silva, Dean Newman takes a look at those other stars who have swapped the world of soap for that of stalk and slash.

Melissa George

One of the most prolific scream queens to have swapped all things soap for the sinister is Melissa George who used to call Home and Away, as the character Angel, home before swapping it for a short stay in The Amityville Horror in the role of Kathy Lutz. More recently she’s also had a sense of déjà vu in ship based horror, Triangle, not to be mixed up with the early 80s North Sea ferry crossing soap drama, taking in Felixstowe, Gothenburg and Amsterdam, now that does sound like the stuff of nightmares!  She also turned up in Paradise Lost and 30 Days of Night.

Joe Absolom  

As Matthew Rose in EastEnders, Joe featured in one of the show’s more memorable storylines where he was in the frame for the murder of Saskia, who was killed by sometime sofa salesman and former Kray twin, Martin Kemp (who also features in Strippers Vs Werewolves by the way).

Ouija board horror thriller, Long Time Dead. It wasn’t the most original piece of filmmaking but was still nice to see British horror on the big screen.

A young Londoner and his friends use a Ouija board to hold a séance, triggering a chain of mysterious deaths that may be caused by an otherworldly force. It’s a brave if not original attempt at young Brit horror even if it does feel somewhat like an episode of Hollyoaks After Dark.

Hannah Tointon

This Hollyoaks moppet, whose sister Kara was also on EastEnders, left the relative safety of Chester for the rather effective and nasty British chiller, The Children. Set in an isolated large house hired for the holidays by two families it isn’t long before the holiday atmosphere is punctured by the accidental death of one of the grown ups. It turns out that the children are the ones behind the mischief and one by one each starts getting infected by a virus that sends them round the murderous twist like a handful of tiny Gabes from Pet Semetery. The film keeps you glued and guessing who’ll make the credits until the very end. Highly recommended.

Brookside Close

So far it’s been former soap actors that have turned up in horror films after leaving their respective programmes, but in a twist one of the sets has also become the star of its very own horror film! That’s right, Jimmy Corkhill might well have painted the letter‘d’ onto the end of Brookside Close when it was canned by Channel 4 in 2003, but in the great tradition of many a horror film it came back from the dead as a filming location for a low budget British horror film, Salvage, of course when used in the soap the Brookside soap set was home to such unspeakable horrors as religious cults, a body under the patio and Ron Dixon toupee…shudder. It was even penned by a Hollyoaks script writer.

Todd Carty

This former EastEnder, the Fonz of Grange Hill and crazy copper from The Bill recently swapped stepping out in front of the lens to behind it for his Directorial debut helming The Perfect Burger, a low budget children’s horror set in a school where the old head dies of gluttony and a new one instigates a healthy regime featuring nutritionally perfect burgers. All is well until children start disappearing.

Not sure whether Todd Carty is the next Tod Browning, Director of the 1931 version of Dracula and Freaks, but if he can channel the same audience responses of horror to his filmmaking as to his ice-skating on ‘Dancing On Ice’ then he is already halfway there!

Craig Fairbrass

From London’s Burning to potty mouthed thug in Cliffhanger, Craig Fairbrass, has had a varied career which also saw him pulling pints, picking up ladies and punching punters during a stint at The Queen Vic as Dan. Post pint pulling he has also turned up, minus a jaw, in White Noise 2 and on the second season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, still retaining his East End accent throughout. I even served him once in Blockbusters in Sidcup.

Matthew Marsden

Ah, Matt went a bit barmy as the character of Chris Collins, sloping off with Sally Webster and eventually holding her hostage. Them were the days. Since the days of Betty’s hot pot Mr Marsden carved out a short niche as a pop star and then found himself in various low budget movies, including Anaconda: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Since then he’s avoided any more snakes and worked himself up the Hollywood ladder with supporting roles in Rambo 4 and Transformers 2. If only Sally Webster could see him now!

Jennifer Ellison

As the character of Emily, Ellison spent her time on Brookside Close and decided to stick with housing of a different kind in the horror comedy, The Cottage, where she was kidnapped by Andy Serkis, as well as featuring in The Phantom of the Opera remake with Gerard Butler.

Nikki Sanderson

Another youngster from the cobbles of Corrie hoping to make it big in Hollywood! Nikki, who played Candice, went straight to DVD in The Boogeyman 3, where she ends up dying when taking a bath when the Boogeyman attacks her, continuing that fine tradition of near naked bathroom horror moments in the likes of Psycho and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Adam Croasdell

As Walford’s Dr Al Jenkins his tenure on Enders might not have been the longest but he certainly sent the ladies hearts a fluttering. Fed the line that his character was off to Cornwall, Croasdell was actually swapping Albert Square for Albert Scare for a plum role in Supernatural with the Winchester brothers. Not sure what Dot Cotton would have made of it all but he’s playing Baldur, the Norse god of light, can’t say I could have seen Dr Legg getting that particular gig!

Robert England: Freddy star gets his claws into his first ever Brit horror

One, two, Freddy star is coming for UK British horror comedy, Strippers Vs Werewolves, which sees the first time the horror legend, Robert Englund, has appeared in a British horror film.

The star of seven A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, eight if you include Freddy Vs Jason, as well as such diverse horror and sci-fi as V, Urban Legend, Wishmaster, Babylon 5, The Mangler, the original Knight Rider and The Phantom of the Opera, this is the first time the Californian born actor will have portrayed a Lycanthrope. Although, he did come into contact with another shapeshifting human in the Manimal TV series, back in the early 80s. He’s also encountered strippers, of the zombie kind, in the imaginatively titled, Zombie Strippers, all of which should stand him in good stead.

It’s a Brit of a coup then, for the film, which starts shooting in and around London this week, boasts a mighty impressive cast of horror and sci-fi alumni, including Barbara Nedaljakova, from Hostel and Hostel 2 and Sarah Douglas, Ursa from Superman 2 and Queen Taramis in Conan the Destroyer.

With an international cast like that and a script by acclaimed award winning writer and director, Pat Higgins, the production has a certain pedigree and you can only hope that it, bolstered by an impressive supporting cast that includes ‘The Krays’ Martin Kemp and former stars of Hollyoaks and Emmerdale, has a successful transformation to the screen.  

The words ‘comedy horror and werewolves’ obviously stirs memories of the granddaddy of all horror comedies, An American Werewolf in London, and the UK has proven that it can handle chills and chortles effectively of late with the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Severance and Attack the Block.

Strippers Vs Werewolves may have big paw prints to step into but with Hollywood giving us Cowboys Vs Aliens and planning on delivering Dinosaurs Vs Aliens, it’s nice to see UK filmmakers stepping into the ring with this tale that is sure to do for strippers and werewolves what From Dusk Til Dawn did for vampires and strippers. It’s sure to be a bitch of a movie!

Pat’s Labyrinth III: The future of Horror

Fearful face off

In the final part of his exclusive interview with British horror film auteur, Pat Higgins, Dean Newman discusses the rise of low budget horror and what Higgins’ horrors await to be unleashed…

DN: Obviously low budget horror has been making the headlines this year with Paranormal Activity, Colin and even Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus…

PH: That last movie really breaks my heart as I have a deep love of giant octopus movies (there’s something you don’t hear everyday – Dean) since seeing Warlords of Atlantis when I was a little kid. For me though Mega Shark was real missed opportunity.

DN: What do you think is the audience appeal? Obviously the genre itself ebbs and flows but why do you think low budget horror has reared its head so triumphantly again this year?

PH: I know Marc Price, Director of the £45 budget zombie horror, Colin, and was lucky enough to see the film at the cast and crew screening prior to the media buzz. I always thought Colin was a remarkable movie as it was something that just hadn’t really been seen before and was a fresh, original take on a subject that people really liked.

Low budget movies can have a unique voice and I can’t imagine that a Studio would have got it. I could see them liking the idea of following a zombie but wanting some human characters in the mix as well.

The purpose of Colin is that it is just about a zombie and Marc really ran with that concept. You could also say the same for Paranormal Activity; I can’t imagine that that would have made it through an awful lot of focus groups where we end up watching a lot of static shots of two people sleeping. They’d probably look at it and think of ways of pepping things up. But of course the normality of it all is what helps suck people in.

I think that quite often when the Studios process such films they kill such choices as those, they like the idea of it but haven’t got the balls to follow through on it. Fair play to the audiences wanting to go on that journey with them and not have everything be spoon-fed or explained to them.

DN: It reminded me very much of the BBC’s Ghostwatch.

PH: I think that was just a wonderful piece of TV and that just came so far out of left field and it really seemed to upset people. I remember seeing that in a jittery room full of people who really bought into the whole experience.

Certainly that, Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch have really blurred the boundaries between what is implied as real and what isn’t.

 

Trilogy of terror

DN: What horrors is 2010 set to bring for you?

PH: We’ve got Bordello Death Tales, which is an anthology movie, which I contributed one story to. There are also stories directed by James Eaves who did Bane and The Witches Hammer, and Alan Ronald, who is regularly my Director of Photography but also made a wonderful little movie called Jesus Vs The Messiah.

I liked Trick ‘R’ Treat quite a lot but there hasn’t really been a good anthology movie since the likes of Creepshow. There have been quite a few separate short films knocking around that have been lumped together and called themselves an anthology but nothing really that was designed and written to be three stories with common threads but with their own unique voice. We’ve shared some locations and some actors, so it does have its own thread.

It’s a very old school interwoven anthology that really is a cool little movie and I’m sure it will do very well at lots of festivals.

In terms of development I’ve been working on a script for a movie called House on a Witch Pit that I keep coming back to and have been doing since about 2002. It’s just designed to scare people, that’s all it wants to do. I love that script so I don’t want to get it wrong and want to make sure that we get the right kind of budget to really do it justice.

 

Directors of Death: l-r Alan Ronald, Pat Higgins and James Eaves

DN: What advice would you give to any budding filmmakers or writers?

PH: The first thing I would say is don’t record important scenes onto a head-cleaning cassette, which is the voice of bitter experience (laughs). Other than that I’d say learning to shoot with what you’ve got rather than with what you’d like to have.

It’s solid advice from Robert Rodriquez and I wished I’d listened to it more on my first film where I thought I’m going to do this and that and in the end don’t think I took the full advantage of all the good things that I did have for free and was trying to overreach on other stuff.

In terms of writing though it is still the one place where we can really beat Hollywood and really can do stuff that they can’t do. They are always going to kick our arse in terms of special effects but in a way that can make it all the more creative.

The low budget gift and the ones who have really made the most of the medium are the ones who have made sure the script is perfect, we care about it and it comes from the heart before it goes in front of the camera. They’ve really taken that to heart and been a success as a result.

DN: As well as low budget horror being popular this year, so has 3D, is that something you are looking at getting involved in?

PH: I’ve started doing some poking around to see how feasible it would be on a low budget. I remember the 80s surge of 3D affectionately and it’s something I’d certainly like to dabble in. Never say never.

Pat might not be poised to make Avatar quite yet but even Cameron started off small with Piranha 2: Flying Killers and just look at where the newly Knighted Peter Jackson started out.

Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK

Dean Newman continues his exclusive interview with British horror auteur, Pat Higgins, and asks him about how he got started, and the ups and the downs that low budget filmmaking bring.

DN: Like many filmmakers were you bitten by the film bug at an early age.

PH: Film was what I’d always wanted to do; I’ve still got Super-8 footage that I filmed when I was little, unleashing stop-motion monsters on Essex, then life got in the way but the love of film never went away.

I worked in video shops, cinemas, anything to be near film. I then found myself stuck in a call centre during the dot-com boom, literally writing screenplays between calls.

I bought stock in it when it floated on the stock-market, borrowing cash from family and friends, watched the company rocket and then sold it off. I paid back everyone that very week, but more importantly had enough money for a broadcast quality camera and an edit suite. With that we made our first film, TrashHouse, which won the Best Screenplay award at the 2005 Tromafling Festival in Edinburgh, and was also runner-up for Best UK Feature.

DN: Obviously you are working with low budgets, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

PH: The idea of losing the writing freedom at the scripting stage is something I would find almost impossible to let go of and move up the budgetary scale. The worst limitation however is that if there is something you really want to do you can just find that you just don’t have the resources to realise it, which is something we certainly came across in TrashHouse.

Fear the Cheerleader!

In terms of KillerKiller we had this wonderful location, the former Warley Hospital near Brentwood (now largely converted into luxury flats) and we couldn’t shoot in it for nearly as long as we needed as it just cost too much, so it’s those kind of brick walls that you keep running into really that make you think, damn it, if only I had an extra few thousand pounds in the bank.

It is a very different creative process though not being able to just hose things with money and make them go away or appear. I’m very used to that way of thinking now and I just love the freedom that comes with it.

For The Devil’s Music we chose a digital release platform for it over here on indiemoviesonline.com, which has worked very well, and over in America have released it as a special edition DVD (released December 22nd 2009) in a way that just wouldn’t be possible here due to the high cost of getting each extra rated by the BBFC.

Working with low budgets you get to have the final say on absolutely everything from the script, casting, editing, to even the promotional campaign. We’ve occasionally tweaked things to make them that little bit more commercial but that has been our decision. Ultimately I’m answerable only to me and others in the company, me and my wife.

DN: Everyone has to answer to their wife though don’t they?

PH: This is very true (laughs).

DN: How would you describe the Devil’s Music?

PH: For a long time we tried avoiding to describe it at festivals but it’s a horror movie in the style of a rock documentary, which tells the tale of a very controversial musician who for one reason or another is no longer ‘around’ and it gradually pulls the viewer into her world and lets them piece together the story of what actually happened to her and those around her.

DN: I’ve never heard of the horror rock documentary before, what has the feedback been like?

PH: It’s been terrific; everybody has been very supportive all the way through. When it was playing festivals it got very good reactions and people really seem to enjoy it. It was a very conscious decision from us that we wanted to produce something very different than what was in the marketplace at the time.

DN: The Devil’s Music has gained quite a bit of coverage hasn’t it?

PH: Kim Newman really likes it and was very complementary about it in Empire a couple of months ago and had actually seen it a couple of months before and kindly sent me some very nice comments about it back then. He’s been a supporter of it now for quite a while, which we’ve been very grateful for.

DN: Has that been the film that has got the greatest amount of exposure to date?

PH: It’s difficult to say really. TrashHouse, our first film, was very well distributed on DVD over here and was available in the high street up and down the country, so the distribution side of things worked very well but we didn’t get so much press.

KillerKiller got the widest release globally, even gaining a cinema release in Germany and I’ve got DVDs of it dubbed into Russian, but alas not here in the UK.

Aisle be back!

HellBride was really just in the States and The Devil’s Music has been these two very different releases in the US and UK. Every release has been very different but one day they will all come together and we’ll have all these elements at the same time for one movie.

DN: Can we expect to see the Pat Higgins boxset as well I presume?

PH: When all the rights revert back to us from the various distribution companies that would be great to do a huge boxset.

DN: Would that be like the Planet of the Apes boxset with packaging in the shape of your head?

PH: It’s unlikely to be me and more likely to be something like a killer cheerleader. Everything since TrashHouse has been shot in High Definition so we have HD masters for everything so Blu-ray could be another avenue that we look to go down in the near future.

Next time: looking forward in fear with Pat’s Labyrinth III: The future of Horror

Pat’s Labyrinth: Horror auteur ‘exorcises’ his horror demons in Essex

Hollywood had Universal and London had Hammer, and now Essex is having a ‘stab’ at horror thanks to Jinx Media, founded by husband and wife team, Pat and Pippa Higgins.

Higgins in horror mode

With an output of five movies, TrashHouse (2005), HellBride (2007), KillerKiller (2007), The Devil’s Music (2008) and Bordello Death Tales (2009), in as many years Jinx Media is proving to be anything but jinxed, with it being as productive as the likes of those studios that unleashed Lon Chaney and Christopher Lee into our nightmares. Dean Newman caught up with Director, Producer, Writer and Editor, Pat Higgins, and found out what influenced his frankly warped and deprived mind.

Pat’s most recent release, The Devil’s Music, has just premiered on DVD in America, but us lucky folk in the UK, however can catch the horror mockumentary, described as ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ meets The Omen’, for free on http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/watch-movies/the-devils-music, uncut, no adverts, no horrible software to install. It is something which Pat sees as a really pioneering website and a great outlet for film fans and filmmakers alike.

DN: Who are your influences?

PH: It’s mainly filmmakers that went out and just did it regardless of any obstacles that may have been in their path, so very much people like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriquez, and Kevin Smith. People who had no money and little professional experience but just decided right I’m going to put together a screenplay, put together the best package that I can and just go out and actually make it.

In terms of tone I’d definitely also add Joe Dante to that list, if there is anyone I owe a huge debt to with comedy horror hybrids then it his him in particular. I vividly remember seeing Gremlins when I was about 11 and it just had this huge impact on me. And not forgetting Fred Dekker as well, with Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, again very 80s but it’s just a nice fusion of comedy and horror. 

DN: What horror movies do you hold in high regard?

PH: I’ve got a lot of love for The Shining, which I think is perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made, the original Robert Wise version of The Haunting and The Exorcist. I think The Shining is pretty much the perfect horror movie as its just got images that drill into your head and just stay there.

Stephen King was not a huge fan and called it a beautiful car without an engine, but I don’t actually think he is right, there is an engine there and is revving really fast but it is so beautifully made that you can’t hear the engine, it doesn’t leave the traces you might usually get.

The Exorcist is smart, is not afraid of its subject matter in a way that a lot of movies dealing with that sort of thing might be and is willing to credit its audience with some intelligence. And The Haunting is just a beautiful, crisp, perfect movie. I love it, a lot, but do have a huge amount of hatred for the remake. Although I think the greatest scare shot of all time for me has to be in the much butchered The Exorcist III.

DN: The likes of The Exorcist have become an established horror franchise, have you ever been tempted to do a sequel to one of your own films?

PH: I’d love to, I’ve got ideas for all of them but I get side-tracked by new ideas that bubble up. I’m a bit like a dog chasing a car as I’ve just got to go after stuff, but I’ve certainly got treatments and in some cases whole screenplays for follow ups to what we’ve already produced.

 
 

 

Cranks the fear up to 11

DN: Getting the right mix of horror and humour is notoriously hard to get right, what do you see as the secret to success in balancing those two areas in film?

 

PH: I think you have to love your characters and love your script. If it’s not breaking your heart to kill one of your characters, which is someone you’ve lived with for months and years in the back of your head, on the page and finally in front of the camera, you can’t expect anyone else to remotely give a shit about them.

I think that particularly with horror comedies people think they can back away from the script and think we can set this up and then this up, the wacky best friend dies at this point, so on and so forth and I think that people can get very dispassionate about it and more often than not it really shows. You end up with characters as just cannon-fodder that nobody cares about, including the people who have written and made the movie.

In terms of the gags I think it is a matter of approaching it in a smart way and ensuring that the script is as tight and as entertaining as it can possibly be, because the writing process is the only one where low budget directors can get a leap on Hollywood.

If you are going crossbreed horror and comedy then you have to do it with loving care.

DN: A lot of horror comedy is played straight as well, such as An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead, isn’t it?

PH: Absolutely, Shaun of the Dead is a movie that really loves its characters, the way that the mother’s death (Penelope Wilton) is handled is just heartbreaking. And I think that is what marks that film out over less successful scripts as it is written by someone that cares.

Pat is clearly someone who cares a great deal about horror and next time, in Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK, Dean will be catching up with him to talk about the trials and tribulations of making low budget horror.